Fish of the Florida Keys



Black Grouper


Black Tip Shark

Blue Runner



Bonnet Head Shark


File Fish

Greu Triggerfish




Crevelle Jack

King Mackerel

Lemon Shark

Mangorve Snapper

Nurse Shark


Queen Trigger Fish

Rainbow Runner

Rainbow Runner

Red Grouper


Scorpion Fish

Surgeon Fish


Triple Tail

Yellow Jack

Yellowtail Snapper



Florida Keys Offshore Fishing

Florida Keys Offshore Fishing

Florida Keys offshore fishing is one method of fishing you can try while visiting the Florida Keys. This is usually done by either larger center console or sport fisher type boats. There are offshore charters leaving from pretty much all areas of the Florida Keys, making Florida Keys offshore fishing one of the most popular activities in the Keys.

Types of Offshore Fish

Depending on the season, Florida Keys offshore fishing can bring you Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi), Tuna (Black fin , Yellowfin), Billfish such as sailfish, white and blue marlin, jacks, usually amber jack, bar jacks and yellow jacks, Triple tail and mackerel. Offshore fishing usually consists of trolling or live bait fishing. The fishing is usually centered around some sort of offshore structure, such as a offshore weed line or a sea mount.

Offshore Weed Lines

Offshore weed lines are usually fished in the summer time, when the winds a calm enough to let the line form. The weed lines are made of sargasm weed. Sargasm weed is host to tons of tiny creatures; little crustaceans etc, and in turn attract schools of tiny bait fish to feed on the tiny animals hiding in the weed. This in turn attracts bigger fish feeding on the smaller fish. The lines are formed by the edges of offshore currents, and high winds will mess them up. The fish that are attracted to the weed lines are still out there when it is windy but the weed line draws them into a concentrated area. Fish caught around weed lines in the summer are usually Dolphin, Wahoo, Bar jacks and triple tail. Sometimes marlin will be out there feeding on the dolphin. You never know what will turn up when you go out for a day of Florida Keys offshore fishing.

Offshore Sea Mounts

Offshore sea mounts are basically mountains on the sea floor, current passes over them and it pushes oxygen rich cold water from the sea floor towards the surface. This pushes bait fish around and toward the surface which attracts larger predators. People troll around these humps for tuna, Wahoo and billfish. People also drift live baits around these humps on the surface for the same fish. Dropping large live baits down towards the bottom on these offshore humps is often how the largest amberjacks are caught.

Florida Keys Flats Fishing

Florida Keys Flats FishingFlorida Keys flats fishing is done on the flats. Flats are essentially large planes of shallow water that surround some of the keys. They can have grassy bottom or a harder coral type bottom. These flats are any where from 6 inches to 6 feet deep and stretch for miles in some areas. They are essentially like large saltwater lakes, and due to the clear water in the Keys you can see bottom and areas surrounding the boat. Florida Keys Flats fishing boats are small skiffs very similar to fresh water bass boats, except they have raised platform in the back known as the poling platform. The guide stands on this platform and pushes the boat along with a long pole, while the angler stands in the front of the boat preparing to target fish. This is known as sight fishing. It’s kind of like hunting. It is primarily catch and release fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit. This can be very difficult fishing, since it requires skill at accurately casting and a lot of patience. Bonefish and permit are very spooky fish and will often run if they hear a the slightest noise. Tarpon, although not as spooky, are finicky eaters, and depending on the conditions won’t eat the tenderest morsel even if it is right in front of them. For easier fish to catch while sight fishing try catching barracuda and sharks. These monsters are way easier and catching either on a surface lure or fly in shallow water is a blast, even though they don’t have the prestige of other fish.

Flats boats aren’t just used to sight fish on the flats. They are often used to fish mangrove channels and the base of bridges…pretty much anywhere there might be a tight squeeze to fit a large boat in or shallow water. Chartering a Florida Keys flats fishing boat is generally the least expensive type of charter, due to the boat’s smaller size and cheaper running costs. They do ride pretty wet when the wind is blowing though and there usually isn’t any cover out of the sun so plan accordingly.

Florida Keys Bridge Fishing

Florida Keys bridge fishing

Cheap Florida Keys Fishing

Why are we talking about Florida Keys Bridge Fishing? Well, charter fishing is expensive, at least to a lot of people. Charters range from $400 – $1000 a day, which to most people is a lot of money to spend on a day fishing. Frankly, ocean sportfishing is the most expensive sport out there. The cost of the boat, upkeep, insurance, gas etc. is the reason it costs so much. In the end, the guides make a nice living if they can book enough people, but it’s not usually a profession that leads to great riches. This is where Florida Keys bridge fishing comes in for the average tourist.

For some people, spending a couple thousand on fishing while on vacation is nothing, but to those of you on a stricter budget, there are other ways to catch some fish that are cheaper. I know probably there is someone in the Florida Keys Tourism industry groaning that the standard line should always hire a guide, and spend as much as possible, but there are so many people for whom this is not even a remote possibility.

Keep in mind that fishing with a guide can be awesome. The knowledge a good guide to impart on a trip can make the trip of a lifetime. If your heart is set on catching any sought-after sportfish, hire a guide.

There are several ways get some fishing in on the cheap, and I’ll try to break them down the best I can.

Bridge and Shore Fishing

TThroughoutthe Keys there are lots of opportunities to fish from shore or bridges. Florida Keys bridge fishing is popular because there are literally dozens of old bridges left standing in the Keys just for use as fishing piers. Bridges like Long Key Bridge and Seven Mile Bridge are prime examples. There are tons of fish at the bases of these bridges, especially the larger bridges. Most get a lot of fishing pressure, but there are still tons of fish to catch. Most people use a small sinker to keep the bait on the bottom, and primary fish caught are snappers, groupers, and grunts. A lot of groupers caught around the bases of bridges will be under legal size so check the regulations before you keep a fish. You can either bring a pole with you- most freshwater-sized poles will be fine for catching snapper and grunts, or the occasional barracuda that will show up. Now there will also be huge fish around the bases of these bridges, fish like jewfish, sharks and depending on the season tarpon. You won’t stand a chance of landing any of these brutes with freshwater tackle, something to keep in mind. If you are not from somewhere where there is saltwater fishing you may have to buy a rod and reel down here, but for just causal vacation use, you can pick up a cheap big rod and reel at Kmart and spool it up with 40 to 60 pound test line, for the big ones. For bait you can buy shrimp or squid at any tackle store. Once you have the shrimp or squid, use a little hook or jig to catch some grunts. You can cut them up for fresh cut bait.

You will increase your chances of hooking up fish from the bridges if you chum where you are fishing. This will also attract a ton of little fish, which can be a pain if they start stealing all your bait. Chum is sold in 5 or 7 pound frozen blocks at all the local tackle stores. You will need a mesh chum bad and enough light rope or string to reach the water from whatever bridge you are fishing.

In Key West you can fish off the White Street Pier or believe it or not Mallory Square. There are tons of fish right off Mallory Square.

Split Charter or Head boat

A split charter is usually when a few people, strangers really, pitch in and charter a boat. This is a good way to save money and go out on a quality boat but there are the obvious pitfalls, like what if the people you book with are jerks. In a split charter you usually split the cost of chartering a big boat with around 6 people, so maybe for around $225 bucks, you get to go out on a sportfisher boat. You can contact Key West Guides and find info on split charters check out FKF Charters.

A head boat is a party boat. It’s a big boat that could have as many as forty people on it. It’s cheap like around $40 and the captains know where to find the fish but hey you are fishing with a crowd. There are also night trips on these boats, and long-range overnight trips.

Boat rentals

Renting a boat and going fishing for yourself is another popular way to get out on the water. It is cheaper than hiring a guide but sometimes not that much cheaper if you only go one day. You have to figure renting a boat can be over $200 a day, then they will get you on gas and oil, then buying bait etc. Now, most rental places have deals if you rent the boat for more then one day, and if you rent a smaller boat for week, you can really get a deal.

Of course, renting a boat you will be on your own to navigate the water of the Keys, which isn’t really a big deal if you are cautious and don’t drive like a nut. Depending on the weather you can usually just motor to the reef and chum a bunch of fish up. Maybe they won’t be the fish of a lifetime but it will be a good time.

If it’s your first time out fishing in a boat by yourself in the keys you will most likely have blast. Places that are easy to catch lots of fish without a lot of know-how, would be the reef and Florida Bay. Florida Bay, especially in the colder months, is full of Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, Sharks, jacks, and catfish. You pretty much just look for a seagrass on the bottom and anchor and throw in a chum bag. The fish will come to you. Before too long you will have schools of baitfish such as pinfish or blue runners having a big party in your chum slick, and before long the bigger fish will show up.

The reef is pretty much another can’t fail fishing destination, pretty much anywhere you see rocks and coral fans there will be fish. Just anchor on the sand patches in-between and chum the fish up. There will be hoards of snapper and baitfish showing up, along with usually barracuda and in the winter Spanish mackerel. If nothing shows up in 30 minutes or so, try another spot.

Florida Keys Fishing

Florida Keys fishing is well known around the world as the best sport fishing, and offers many types of experiences, from flats fishing to wreck fishing. Charters are available in the Keys for whichever type of fishing you desire, and most include everything you need for a fun and successful fishing trip. Come see why Florida Keys fishing is the best in the world!

Flats fishing is done in small skiffs with only one or two people per skiff. As the name implies, flats fishing is done in extremely shallow waters to catch Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon. Anglers watch for the fish to approach before casting the line in precisely the right spot to make the catch. Flats fishing in the Keys is done with either fly equipment or with spinning gear.

Backcountry fishing is less technical than flats fishing, and the boats can accommodate up to four anglers in shallow waters. Along with the same variety of fish which can be caught in flats fishing, anglers can also catch shark, snapper and barracuda.

Reef and wreck fishing is best for beginners and those who want the most productive fishing day possible. The many wrecks and natural coral reefs around the Florida Keys provide excellent opportunities for shark, barracuda, snapper, permit and macheral, as well as many other fish abundant in the area. Both fly fishing and tackle fishing can be used for reef and wreck fishing.

Florida Keys fishing

Tarpon, commonly known as the Silver King, is considered the the fly fisherman’s premier sport fish. The Florida Keys, and specifically Key West, offers the greatest opportunity for sight casting in the shallow waters. 150 pound tarpon are not uncommon in the Florida Keys.

There are many sportfishing charters available in the Keys. Molasses Reef is often referred to as the most popular diving location in the world. Some Florida Keys fishing charter companies offer a variety of fishing types, while some charters specialize in niche markets of specific types of fishing, or in specific locations in which they are experts. Some also are experts in certain species, such as tarpon or sharks, while others are considered party boats.

Party boats are great for groups, because they can accommodate a large group of people for a day of fishing fun. Party boats are usually less expensive per person, since the cost of the excursion is split among many people, and are most often all inclusive. The price is great for couples where only one person might want to fish.

Most Florida Keys fishing charter companies offer everything for their anglers, from equipment to bait. Most also offer drinks and deli-type food. However, you are welcome to bring along your own if you desire. It is highly recommended to bring along appropriate clothing and sun care for your fishing expedition.